Student Engagement Expo highlights unique extracurricular opportunities

Undergraduate students encouraged to find their 'why'

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Student engagement is like undertaking a mythic journey. As 2016-17 Penn State Laureate and Professor of Theatre Susan Russell said, “it begins with finding your why — your target penetrating four years of undergraduate study.” Russell was the keynote speaker during the 2017 Student Engagement Expo on Nov. 6, addressing an audience of more than 250 individuals eager to make their mark on the University and global community. "Make a decision about why you’re here," Russell said. "It will change — it’s like a thesis statement, but you’re still focused."

The Student Engagement Expo, hosted by the Student Engagement Network, featured lightning-round presentations from seven undergraduate students who have immersed themselves in extracurricular pursuits. Ryan Simpson, a junior majoring in statistics, spoke about the “unprecedented multitasking” that he came to love while managing the Penn State Altoona hockey team. "If you’re looking for something to do on campus, the opportunities are there," Simpson said. "You have to seek it out, and you will reap the benefits."

Natasha Nagle, a senior majoring in anthropology, classics and ancient mediterranean studies, and geosciences, found her niche in studying abroad. "There’s just something about walking among the ancient Greek ruins or holding a vessel that’s been buried for more than 2,000 years," she said. "I truly believe that it’s these experiences — those outside the four walls of a classroom — that allow you to expand your horizons and provide the foundation for your character, and it’s those character traits that will set you apart from everyone else in the world," explained Nagle.

And sometimes, those experiences help you see the world a bit differently. Mitchell Higgins, a senior majoring in civil engineering, has come to know the University Park campus by walking backward, thanks to the Lion Ambassadors. Out of all the organizations he’s been involved with, Higgins called the "student alumni corps" the most impactful. "Walking backward means heading toward a destination where you can’t always see the end," Higgins said. "It [Lion Ambassadors] has certainly pushed me beyond my comfort zone."

While the presenters represented different academic backgrounds, the Student Engagement Expo united them through a common thread: their “whys” that sparked them to take advantage of new opportunities. The event also marked a moment of celebration for the Student Engagement Network as it recently launched the Engagement Space in the HUB-Robeson Center to inspire more Penn Staters to carve out their paths.

"The greatest moment you have is your spiritual wisdom journey," Russell said. "And it starts here with why."

The Student Engagement Network is a joint initiative between Undergraduate Education, Student Affairs and Outreach and Online Education. The mission of the Student Engagement Network is to advance the power of participation by connecting students with experiences that empower them to make a positive impact as citizens and leaders of the world.

For more information about the Student Engagement Network, visit or email [email protected].